Tag Archives: College and Career Ready

Project-Based Learning: It’s the Right Thing for Kids

Bie.org is an amazing resource for everything PBL - including samples, definitions, videos, blogs, and even an amazing template.

The deeper we all dig into the Common Core State Standards and North Carolina Essential Standards, the more we all agree — these standards reflect what students need to be able to know and do to be ready for college and careers.

Even though our teachers are going through the challenge of learning the new standards and writing new curricula, we have to admit that it is exciting to have the opportunity to frame what learning is going to look like across the region.  Most districts have used their professional development days to group teachers intentionally by grade level or content area in order to ensure fidelity and horizontal alignment district-wide.  And many have begun to share that work on our Region 7 wiki.

The PBL Blog provides yet another great resource housed on bie.org.

This is why now is the perfect opportunity to explore the impact Project-Based Learning (PBL) can have on our local curricula.  Right now, teachers are working hard to learn the standards and to organize them logically.  Soon, teachers will be asking the question, “How do we teach these standards?”  A great place to start answering that question is with PBL.

The more we talk about changing the way the 21st century classroom operates, the more specific examples and support teachers need.  Let’s face it.  Most teachers were educated for 16+ years and trained to teach in a very different model than what the latest researchers proclaim as most effective.  The best way to help teachers get comfortable with embracing this change is to not only share a clear expectation but also to provide specific examples.

Common Craft provides a clear, simple explanation of what PBL is and how this practice can transform any classroom.

Use "Project Search" to find hundreds of examples of PBL lessons complete with teacher reflections, student samples, and lesson plans.

If that isn’t exciting enough, there are some great PBL lessons out there complete with lesson plans, timelines, teacher reflections, handouts, and student examples!  What more could you need to get started?  Check out bie.org.  This site is a great starting point for teachers interested in specifics about what PBL looks like in a classroom.  You will find samples in the “Project Search” bar and support with how to begin your own project on the “PBL:  Do It Yourself” page.  A variety of videos, suggested resources and readings, and even a blog about current PBL happenings and events are available on this site.  Check it out for yourself.

PBL Lessons are categorized as BEGINNER, EXPERIENCED, and EXPERT to help teachers choose the most appropriate experience for their students.

Sign up for a free account on bie.org (It takes less than 60 seconds and is completely free.) and get access to the template for creating PBL experiences for students.  The template ensures that teachers take into consideration all important aspects of creating a project,  It is simply amazing!

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Making Sense of Integrating Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects

Helping teachers and administrators understand the meaning of "literacy" is an important first step.

I don’t really understand why there has always been this push back from teachers who think that teaching and reinforcing literacy skills are the responsibilities of the English teacher.  I never took at science, social studies, art, or technical course that did not include reading, writing, speaking, listening, presenting, and communicating with others.

Occasionally, teachers in these courses did as well or better at teaching literacy skills than did my English and Language Arts teachers.  I think one of the biggest barriers is that not all teachers have a true understanding by what is meant by “literacy instruction.”

All students deserve quality literacy instruction. Good teachers include literacy instruction instinctively throughout each lesson regardless of their content.

When I worked as a Curriculum Specialist, one of my greatest joys was mentoring young teachers, observing them, and providing clear, specific feedback on their instruction.  I worked with some outstanding teachers who were just starting their careers.  One thing the strongest and most effective teachers had in common, regardless of their content-area or grade level, was that they intuitively and purposefully created learning opportunities for students in which literacy strategies were embedded throughout each class period, each lesson, and each unit.

So, what does this mean to non-ELA teachers?

I challenge you to take a look at the bullets below no matter the subject you teach and decide which bullets are important for students in your class.

The Common Core State Standards define students who are College and Career Ready in Reading, Writing, Speaking, Listening, and Language as those who have the following attributes:

1.  They demonstrate independence.

  • Comprehend and evaluate complex texts across a range of types and disciplines without significant scaffolding
  • Construct effective arguments
  • Convey intricate or multifaceted information
  • Independently discern a speaker’s key points
  • Build on others’ ideas
  • Request clarification, articulate their own ideas, ask relevant questions, and become self-directed learners
  • Seek out and use resources to assist them
  • Demonstrate command of the English language
  • Acquire and use a wide range of vocabulary

Image courtesy of Discoveryschool.com

2.  They build strong content knowledge.

  • Establish a base of knowledge across a wide range of subject matter by engaging with works of quality and substance
  • Become proficient in new areas through research and study
  • Read purposefully and listen attentively to gain general knowledge and discipline-specific expertise
  • Refine and share their knowledge through writing and speaking

3.  They respond to the varying demands of audience, task, purpose, and discipline. 

  • Adapt their communication in relation to audience, task, purpose, and discipline
  • Set and adjust purpose for reading, writing, speaking, listening and language use as warranted by the task
  • Appreciate nuances – such as how the composition of an audience should affect tone when speaking and how connotations of words affect meaning
  • Understand that different disciplines call for different types of evidence — i.e. documentary evidence in history and experimental evidence in science.

4.  They comprehend as well as critique.

  • Engaged and open-minded
  • Discerning readers and listeners
  • Work diligently to understand precisely what an author or speaker is saying
  • Question an author’s or speaker’s assumptions and premises
  • Assess the veracity of claims and soundness of reasoning

Valuing evidence as well as using technology and digital media strategically and effectively are skills our 21st century students must master to be prepared for college and the workforce.

5.  They value evidence.

  • Cite evidence when offering an oral or written interpretation
  • Use relevant evidence when supporting their own points in writing and speaking
  • Make their reasoning clear to the reader or listener
  • Evaluate others’ use of evidence constructively

6.  They use technology and digital media strategically and capably.

  • Employ technology thoughtfully to enhance reading, writing, speaking, listening, and language use
  • Tailor their searches online to acquire useful information efficiently
  • Integrate what they learn using technology with what they learn offline
  • Are familiar with the strengths and limitations of various technological tools and mediums and can select and use those best suited to their communications goals

7.  They come to understand other perspectives and cultures. 

  • Appreciate that the 21st century classroom and workplace are settings in which people from often widely divergent cultures with diverse experiences and perspectives must learn and work together
  • Actively seek to understand other perspectives and cultures through reading and listening
  • Able to communicate effectively with people of varied backgrounds
  • Evaluate other points of view critically and constructively

This resource includes research, recommendations, vignettes, and professional development suggestions.

The Common Core State Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects were built on the premises that reading in the content area is critical to building knowledge and writing is a key means of asserting and defending claims, showing what students know about a subject, and conveying what they have experienced, thought, imagined, or felt.

When I read through the standards, I found that they provide a great reference to guide the classroom teacher in terms of what students should be doing with the content.  The standards provide an opportunity for the teacher to ensure that students are engaging with the content in meaningful ways that will help ensure that they are indeed college or career ready. We know that most college and workforce training programs require informational readings, and to ensure our students are well-prepared for college and the workforce, we ALL owe it to them to teach and support our students’ literacy development.

If you are looking for support as you begin to think about the role literacy plays in your planning, curriculum design, and daily instruction, check out these great resources.

Bringing Literacy Strategies into Content Instruction:  Developed by the Center on Instruction, “this document provides research-based guidance on academic literacy instruction in the content areas, specifically focusing on the effective use of text in content areas.”

Common Core for Social Studies Teachers!:  (Look for Episode 15)  ASCD’s Michael Fisher interviews  Bruce Leader, a 10th grade Global Studies teacher at Starpoint High School in Lockport, NY.  In this interview Bruce Leader discusses integrating the literacy standards for writing and reading from the Common Core into his professional practice.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Are Infographics the new PowerPoint for 21st Century Learners?

I am mesmerized by infographics.  I not only find the information, data, statistics, and messages fascinating, but I also see how they appeal to the brain of the 21st century learner.  We are inundated with information, bombarded by snippets, soundbites, text messages, and little bytes of information that we process effortlessly.  To demonstrate this fact, as I am typing this post, I am listening to a podcast, watching a football game, checking my Facebook, and texting on Skype.  We function now in pieces, not in the whole.

When our students look for information, chances are, they will not be drawn to a thirteen page article or four chapters in a textbook, but they will look for something they can view and something with which they can interact.  Let’s face it… Infographics are interesting!  They suck us in.   They provide fodder for GREAT discussions, and they lead us to search for more information because they pique our interest.  Infographics are the hook we need for our 21st century classrooms.  How could this work, you ask?

What are Infographics? 

Infographics are a way to make sense of data and the story behind the data by using a visual representation of given information.   The study of these visual representations helps us uncover trends in large data sets in some instances.  Infographics also take smaller data sets and makes them visible, interesting, and easily accessible to a wide audience.  Often, the mode of display is directly related to the context of the intended message.

Take this infographic for example… (Click the infographic.)

This graphic provides a visual representation of the Left and Right Wings of Government.  Think about how a Civics teacher could use this infographic.  The possibilities are endless.   And this is just one example.

Challenging Students to Think Beyond the PowerPoint

Media Literacy is a cornerstone of 21st century learning as well as preparing students to be college and career ready.  What better way for students to demonstrate their understanding of a topic than to create an infographic?  Because infographics communicate the author’s data and understanding, creating an infographic encourages creativity, analysis and evaluation of information, and a deep understanding of how to interpret data to deliver a message.   As we embrace Revised Bloom’s Taxonomy and provide students with more opportunities to think critically and draw conclusions, infographics may serve multiple purposes in our classrooms.

Check out my Delicious stack of infographic information:  Things to Make you Think to see more examples of infographics as well several really powerful examples.

 

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized